Why I chose Debian

Last update on Oct. 6, 2013.

Why I chose Debian

I chose debian for the base of Kwheezy for many reasons, but ultimately, debian is perfect for building on top of. It's well known that debian is rock solid stable, perhaps even the best tested distro in the GNU/Linux world. It also has a fantastic security team and a repository dedicated to security updates (patches). Debian also has a well designed package management system, so installing, updating and repairing a debian system is a breeze. So it's stable, secure, easy to maintain,  all of which makes it perfect for servers. However, this comes at a cost, and that cost is that the software in it's huge repositories is old. It has to be old to be so well tested, patched, tested, patched... and so on . Not just as individual applications, but how well they integrate with the rest of the system. And of course; debian is only ready when it's ready. There aren't many software projects with that attitude these days.

So it's obviously a good choice for servers, but what about desktop computing. Debian is not the most user-friendly distro. It does not have a super easy installation utility. It is not made all nice and pretty, it mostly sticks to upstream defaults. It does not do any user specific configuration, not at a desktop computing level anyway. You, as the user are expected to learn and configure your system to suit your needs. You are expected to bend the law to make that audio/video track play. This is the way that many advanced Linux users prefer it to be. But it's not the way that beginers, newcomers, lazy's or too busy to's like it to be. And the extra work is, unfortunately, enough to put many people off from settling with debian.

It's for these same reasons that debian is such a good base for a distro. Stable and well intergrated, with a huge repository of well tested applications, but without creating constraints. Without adding unnecessary complexity. There is a trade-off for user friendly simplicity. And prettiness is subjective, each to their own. Debian gets all the technical underpinnings done well, and allows a distro maker to apply their polish.

So that's the technical background. But why did I personally choose debian?

I started my own journey in the Linux world with a distribution I shall not name, it was distinctively brown, or at least it was in those days. I used it for a couple of years at least. I had great fun, and gained some good linux experience with it. I never really had many problems that didn't apply to Linux in general. It was debian based, so I came to know and love the deb package format, or more so, apt-get. But by this time I started trying out other distro's, and naturally, other desktop environments. Even though I had been on Gnome 2.x for a long time, and gotten used to it, and it did everthing I needed it to do. I decided that I liked KDE better. I liked the looks, the customizability , the power; despite the early stages of KDE4 being buggy and slow. It was also perhaps that I'm a software developer. I wanted to pick a single GUI toolkit to learn and start developing Linux applications with. I was drawn towards Qt, and hence KDE was more suitable. These two factors compounded each other. But alas, my distro was firmly based on Gnome, what to do.

Now to find a new distro. One that supported KDE, one that loved KDE. My previous distro had a brother with KDE, but it was, at least at that time, not a great implementation of KDE. But I also wanted to stick with deb and apt-get. So, let's find a KDE-centric distro that uses deb and apt. There really wasn't a lot to choose from. Most of the KDE-centric distros were rpm based (Mandriva, OpenSUSE) or too difficult (Slackware, Arch, Sabayon) or they were just not mainstream enough. Debian itself was less appealing for the reasons expressed above. Also, debian's KDE was too old at that time, KDE3 was superseded and KDE4 had to be recent to be stable.

To add to the complexity of my decision; I started to build a Linux based roll-out for my company, where I am IT manager. So I needed something I could build on top of, without any experience in distro building and being an intermediate Linux user at best. Somehow I ended up using PCLinuxOS, of which our roll-out is still using today, until the debian based one is ready. Despite it being rpm based, at least it used apt-get and synaptic. It is very highly customized and without doing so in packages, so I can't even remember where all my changes are. It was very nearly based on Mepis, which had a significantly newer KDE than debian, and kernel. In fact perhaps the only reason it wasn't based on Mepis was that Mepis didn't have a remastering tool. PCLinuxOS has it's own remastering tool called "MyLiveCD" (formerly  "MakeLiveCD"), which was perfect for making our roll-out with. It is also a great KDE distro, with excellent hardware support. And amazingly, for a rolling release, it is incredibly stable. The biggest downside with PCLinuxOS, at that time, was that being a one man show, it had a noticably smaller repository. Whilst having most common  home computing software, it lacked some I needed in a corporate environment. RPMs from other distros didn't work, but i discovered deb's from the debian repository worked best, converted using 'alien'.

It was from my experience building a roll-out for my company that I came to appreciate debian as a base for a distro. Whilst PCLinuxOS was very stable, it was still a rolling release. A moving target really becomes a problem for a corporate roll-out. It took me over a year to get all the kinks ironed out of our roll-out, to get it to suit everyones needs. Whilst a linux enthusiast will put up with endless breakages and workarounds, they can just visit their forum and find a solution. Common office workers, which don't want to be pried from the clutches of their beloved Windows XP, are much less tolerant. We ended up mirroring the PCLinuxOS repository and freezing it, simply by not updating our mirror. Effectively doing what debian does, but without the 6-12 months of testing and patching. And now we're mostly on noticably older versions than in the current debian stable repository.

Debian stable is perfect for a roll-out or a distro because it is so predicatable and dependable. It simply works! There is rarely an annoying and silly bug getting in your way of doing real work. Because the debian developers and packagers have already ironed out every single release-critical bug. As a distro developer, I take great comfort in the fact that my customizations will not be broken by an update. The updates are far fewer than most other stable distros. Debian stable updates very rarely break anything. They are mostly for security patches, which is something you definetely want.

So what if the software is a little old. KDE 4.8.4 has fully evolved, it's more than I could ask for. Debian stable works like a dream, it gets the job done, then gets out of my way. It allows me to get my work done without any hair-pulling and wasted time wading through forums and bug reports for fixes. It's also one of the fastest distros out there.

A big thanks to all the wonderful people involved in the Debian project. Debian wheezy is a fantastic release. Thanks for giving me a perfect base for my distribution.

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  1. Dalibor

    Dalibor on 07/27/2013 3:11 p.m. #

    I agree....you should make another debian based distro but with xfce...xfce debian 7.1 is fast like formula 1...Make another debian based xfce this time and costumize it..to be about 1 Gb...that will be amazing!!!

  2. speedyx

    speedyx on 07/29/2013 8:31 p.m. #

    I was looking for a already configured debian distribution with kde and drivers/plugins that works out of the box to be installed on my relative's notebooks when I will be on holyday.
    But I use arch and I don't want to spend my holyday on their pcs.
    So your distro is welcomed! Thanks.

  3. Shashi Warrier

    Shashi Warrier on 07/30/2013 12:52 a.m. #

    Many distros don't come with drivers for the ethernet and wifi cards in my laptop: Atheros 8162 and Realtek RTL 8723ae. Is it possible to know if Kwheezy supports either of these cards? Either one is enough because once I'm connected I can get the other one going with downloads and makes.

  4. Euan

    Euan on 07/30/2013 3:33 a.m. #

    @Shashi Warrier:
    Kwheezy comes with firmware-realtek (0.36+wheezy.1), that may help with the Realtek adapter, I can't find any info about RTL 8723ae specifically.

    As for the Atheros; it's looks like you're in luck. According to this bug report: http://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=699129 it should be in the stable kernel before wheezy was released.

    In Kwheezy firmware-atheros (0.36+wheezy.1) is installed.

  5. medo

    medo on 08/14/2013 4:24 p.m. #

    Good article, and explanation, please continue to develop your great in-house utilities and support Debian + KDE and make it your mission.

    And please dont branch out with many other distro`s or DE variants, stick with what you have and continue to support it and dont make things confusing for new comers.

    I truly found this project unique and if you continue i know that you will gain wide adoption and popularity.

    While i dont like KDE, its the 100% right choice currently, cause the "brown" distro you used used 8.04 or 8.10 was the best OS ever and i greatly enjoyed it, then they ***** things really bad, pulled a windows 8 move with there new awful interface for hipsters.

    Gnome is torn apart, and xfce is lame, and LXDE is nice but still not 100% stable, however MATE is solid consideration and alternative.

    Anyway thanks for all your work

  6. euan

    euan on 08/14/2013 4:38 p.m. #

    Thanks medo, I agree with you about everything except XFCE. It is weak in certain area, but it knows what it is and it is good at what it does. If you pimp it out it can be really nice. I haven't taken a look at Elementary OS, it's just released and looks really good. Might wanna check it out if KDE isn't your thing.

    Any suggestions on more tools for Kwheezy?

  7. Cogito Ergo Sum

    Cogito Ergo Sum on 08/15/2013 12:11 a.m. #

    My question wouldn't have been why Debian, i am attracted by Wheezy for the same reasons you pointed out and the fact that my PC is a bit old and i'm still on XP 32bit on a 64 bit computer.

    My question was, why KDE and you answered it.

    My question now is, could you please make an LXDE distro or a Wheezy distro with a DE that uses as little resources as possible?

    I would love to have Debian running Wine or a virtual XP and taking not much more ram and cpu then win xp, so i can play my old win games on a more stable computer.

  8. JacK U.

    JacK U. on 08/15/2013 4:08 a.m. #

    So many things said above, and so much right.

    What i would like to know: where is the difference, installing "default wheezy" and then installing everything for KDE - in comparison to your distro KWheezy?

    Thank you for your answer!

  9. Cole Owens

    Cole Owens on 08/15/2013 4:43 a.m. #

    THANK YOU. I've been changing (playing around) with 50 or so
    distros/desktop combos for a year and a half. This is just what i've been looking for. hope you can keep this project rolling. I think you might be on to something, sence other distros are heading away from home computing.
    Thanks again,
    Cole.

  10. euan

    euan on 08/15/2013 12:30 p.m. #

    @Cogito Ergo Sum: A few have asked that I do a XFCE, slimmer version. I said I'd think about it. But I feel medo (post above) is right. I should stick to one version and make it as good as possible. You really should check out #! crunchbang linux. It's as lightweight as you can get (Openbox). It's debian wheezy. It's really well themed and put together. I never thought openbox could be so functional until I saw it. Really, really nice distro!

    @Cole Owens: Thanks for such a nice complement, makes it worth all the hard work. So, you're a distro hopper too. Well I hope Kwheezy helps you settle on Debian, only time will tell. For me, there was only one cure for the distro-hopper syndrome, make your own distro.
    As long as there is folk finding Kwheezy useful, I'll keep rolling it. Although it is Debian stable, may not be much changes until Jessie, then I'll have to think about the name of the distro. :-)

    @Jack U.: Well, there's a lot more than the KDE apps. There's all the other apps. All the non-free drivers, printers, codecs, plugins, fonts, locales etc. Firefox/Thunderbird instead of Iceweasel/Icedove (It's hard to explain to linux newcomers why they are rebranded). The installer is much easier than Debian. There is a lot of customizing of KDE to look good and be more functional. For example: dolphin is configured, better selection in the toolbar, menu not hidden (for newcommers). Good slection of widgets in the panel. Ibus (non-latin character input method) installed and setup for Chinese/Japanese/Korean etc to get going right away.

    Then there's the Kwheezy tools. The switch video driver tool makes it really easy to change to video drivers, otherwise not easy for a noob. The other tools save going to command line to change keyboard/locale etc. A choice to autostart Yakuake, Conky and Jitsi on login. Newcommers may not even know about those apps.

    Magnet links work out-the-box in both Firefox and Rekonq. Kget is already setup as download manager in Rekonq and Firefox. Kget is a really good download accelorator, and not bloated like many others.

    Kwheezy Manage Users is a GUI add users tool. It allows adding users that respects the /etc/adduser.conf settings. In Kwheezy case, a user is added to more unix groups than usual (lp dialout fax cdrom floppy audio video plugdev users fuse scanner lpadmin netdev bluetooth powerdev davfs2 vboxusers). It also lets you add users with a period (full-stop) in the username.

    Basically, there's A LOT of configuration.

  11.   Cole Owens

    Cole Owens on 08/16/2013 11:15 a.m. #

    Kessie! I'd be down with that one too.

  12. euan

    euan on 08/16/2013 5:52 p.m. #

    @Cole Owens: LOL, well it's better than Kjessie, but still doesn't sound quite right.

    Anyway, apparently backports are going to be officially supported (official repo) in wheezy. I think Debian are trying to respond to the "but they're so old" from the crowd.

    I'm thinking of making a GUI tool that gets you safely onto backports, easy for noobs. The installer would still be pure stable, but you can roll onto backports with a few clicks.

    Anyway, I'm still happy with versions in pure stable myself. It's so nice to not have to update 100 packages and a new kernel every week, like that other distro that shall not be named.

  13. Mike H

    Mike H on 08/18/2013 8:31 p.m. #

    I say name it either KStable, or even Konstable. That's my 2 cents...

  14. Fargo

    Fargo on 08/21/2013 3:36 a.m. #

    I just came across Kwheezy (queasy?!). And apart from the name, I think you have a great concept here. I look forward to trying it. I found your path to Debian interesting. I started Linux with a commercial Debian distro (Xandros) and loved it. When they dissappeared I moved to PCLinuxOS. I also really liked PCLinuxOS, but never liked the rolling release thing. It seems something was either breaking or updating. Rolling release just wasn't for me. So I moved back to Debian in the form of Mepis.

    For a long time I have been hoping that someone would freeze PCLinuxOS and make a stable point releases of it. I found it very interesting that you had tried exactly what I was dreaming of. A stable PCLinuxOS distro. I would have loved to have tried your stable version of PCLOS. That sounds like a great distro. But from your experience it sounds like it is better in theory than in practice.

    I wish you luck with Kweezy. At this point my biggest suggestion is to setup a user forum. Part of my decision to use a distro is always based on the user forum.

    For future consideration, I would consider LXDE-QT or Klyde for those who want a light desktop version. It seems to me sticking with other QT based desktops would be the way to go.

  15. euan

    euan on 08/21/2013 5:18 a.m. #

    @Fargo: Thanks for your feedback. My PCLinuxOS repo freeze isn't quite good as it may sound. It's easy to do yourself, just setup a local apache on your LAN and rsync the repo from your fastest PCLOS repo. Then just point synaptic to your local repo, 192.168.1.x will do, no need for hostnames. There are guides on how to mirror the repo somewhere, just google it.

    If you like stable releases, there's nothing better than Debian. In 2 years time, it will update to new stable. I will try my best to make sure Kwheezy will roll onto Jessie just fine. I may even make a GUI tool to do it for those that don't know.

    Kwheezy has a user forum. It's on sourceforge, which admittedly is not the best or attractive forum. But it saves a lot of headache and time for me. If Kwheezy takes off and demand is high for a better forum, I may set one up. But really, when you're on kwheezy, you're on Debian.

  16. thevar

    thevar on 09/21/2013 9:53 p.m. #

    you've beaten me to it...;)
    though i don't think I would've come around it.
    exactly what I've been trying to achieve for last 2-3y,
    i also started with the Brown thing... didn't like the repeated sudo...sudo for the many activities... shifted to Mint gloria KDE (then a CE), have done much distro hopping since. currently using Netrunner(heavily customised), mint debian with KDE + Mint maya KDE(dualboot) and PCLOS on my three computers.
    really am glad for your decision.
    I am a fulltime surgeon and I consider myself an oldnoob(no official trg in IT), however am administering a LAN, mostly at night as a hobby.
    I might be of help in testing, bug reporting etc if reqd.
    am downloading the Distro now.
    thanks again, will support your endeavour...

  17. euan

    euan on 09/22/2013 9:36 a.m. #

    @thevar: Well, if you want a no fuss, stable, KDE distro, that just works; Kwheezy is for you. Provided you don't mind some things being a bit old. I've distro hopped for many years too. It's nice to finally put some roots down. There's nothing in the Linux world like Debian stable!

    Yes, help testing would be great. I will add email address to my pre-release mailing list. Also, just reporting any bugs or any kind of feedback for imporovements is always welcome. Best to do that in the open, in the forums.

    Thanks for your interest, I hope you enjoy Kwheezy.

  18. Vashek

    Vashek on 09/24/2013 12:43 p.m. #

    The main reason that Linux thus far did not achieve a wider user acceptance is that dominant Linux brands keep enforcing Gnome as their default desktop; RedHat, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, CentOS, Peppermint, even Debian 7.1 all have Gnome as default, it's nearly a monopoly; there are work-arounds to install KDE but the fact is Gnome creates not so user-friendly wall to break.

    Gnome is acceptable solution for the server market where you just need the bear bones environment, scaled down, aesthetically lower end of spectrum, nothing outstanding, nothing fancy, nothing to distract. That why RedHat is reluctant to look into alternative desktop solutions despite users' outcry. RedHat's server market position does not allow them to do anything else and they never really pushed for user-desktop, not in their focus. Now, that also leaves the door open to individual developers who want to bring to us what we need. What amazes me is that despite all those years of talk about Linux desktop and how poor it is, Ubuntu also supports Gnome as their default. So, in other words, much of Linux market is dominated by distributions that are really not user friendly in mind, they want to push their next release based in new kernel releases, but really not putting enough effort to even understand what the user desktop game is.

    So, that brings us to Kwheezy 1.2. I was just stunned to discover that to find the right kind of distribution there’s needed some level of interest and perseverance, because it takes honest work and sound logic to find what we need. Debian/KDE is a stable-creative type of combination, everything works, is enjoyable, and it could have multiple possible outcomes. Thanks for good work.

  19. euan

    euan on 09/24/2013 6:17 p.m. #

    @Vashek: Wow, that post is possibly the best compliment so far. You can give your feedback any day! :-)

  20. Vashek

    Vashek on 09/25/2013 3:07 p.m. #

    Are you on Twitter?, it could be a good tool in addition to this website, news, short tips, etc. Kwheezy 1.2 is definitely my kind of distro; installed it on two laptops: Toshiba Satellite Pro, and older Lenovo ThinkPad T61p; also one desktop computer; all well, no glitches, which means I can spend my time now more productively; I'll try to use some visualization tools, apps, such us VBox, would like to implement Cloudera, Hadoop. Your release is already a higher end of Linux class, I think; for me what would work next is to customize into networking support tools and apps, so it is all in one focus on network; SDN (software defined network), OpenFlow is talk of the day now; so your distro could specialize in that direction. As of now Kwheezy 1.2 release is not yet widely noticed, people still following conventional solutions, painful as it may be, they'll try new Fedora with an empty Gnome desktop, not to downplay anything, but time is precious; after achieving a firm ground there would be some opportunities to develop a customization into one-two specific directions; thanks, Vashek.

  21. euan

    euan on 09/26/2013 7:52 p.m. #

    @Vashek: I have a Twitter account, but I don't use it. I'm not big on social networking sites. Nothing against them, I'm just too busy or lazy to get into it. I keep telling myself I must. Jonick has created a Facebook page, I haven't made time to check it out yet. Perhaps he could set up a Twitter account too. I'll ask him.

    Wow, multiple installations. This is flattery. I'm glad you enjoy Kwheezy.

    I'll have to check out OpenFlow. You do realize Kwheezy is a Desktop OS? And it is for the most part Debian. I think the Debian devs have probably got that one covered. Hadoop should definetely be installed on debian, not Kwheezy. Sorry if I misunderstood, I'm not up on those technologies. Please explain further.

    I have plans for 1.3 already. GPT support for installer (if it's not too difficult). Also, neaten up the Kwheezy tools, particularly the post-installation walk through.

    What do you think of the Adminstrator account, and getting folk to install the first user afterwards? It seem to confuse some people.

    Cheers mate, look forward to your reply. Get yourself on the forums!

  22. Rickster

    Rickster on 09/29/2013 3:04 p.m. #

    Well kWheezy 1.2 is one big ride, I must say.
    Everything worked great, even when it came to installing my amd-catalyst 13.8-8eta drivers. That was a welcome surprise.

    The only thing that did not work was my sound card, because of that crappy pulseaudio mess. Of course, once I "apt-get purge pulseaudio ...", except for libpulse, then reboot, and voila, sound works, because ALSA just works.

    I read somewhere that you got rid of "DMO" because you wanted to keep Debian clean and stable.
    Hopefully you'll do the same with pulseaudio, in your next release of kWheezy. I think "alsa" is just fine for this Debian.

  23. Rickster

    Rickster on 09/29/2013 10:52 p.m. #

    I agree with @medo on this one too:
    kWheezy 1.2 -> (KDE + "pure" clean Debian 7.1) is beautiful, to say the least. I find it runs very stable, and predictable, as it should.
    Not to insult the other lighter branch-DE's, but lets face it:
    Gnome2 + xfce + lxde = KDE (now)
    So, why bother introducing more headaches, and work, by doing the multiple different variants of DE's when KDE has it all.
    Besides, I think you have the largest ("pure" KDE-Debian-based) distro (.iso) in the world. It's even larger that the "FULL Knoppix DVD" !
    ;)

    But dude, these "Captcja's are impossible ro read, argggh, :(

  24. euan

    euan on 10/01/2013 5:39 a.m. #

    @Rickster: Well, I used to use PCLinuxOS a lot, Texstar avoided pulse like the plague, just sticking to ALSA. PCLinuxOS sound was real good. I guess I thought pulse must have fully evolved by now. I trust Debian to pick these kind of infrastructure decisions wisely. They don't move to new technologies on a whim. Notice how sys-init is still the default.

    If there's on thing I would change about Linux, it's audio. I notice you're a BSD user. Isn't the sound in FreeBSD just so much better than Linux. Why they won't switch to OSSv4 puzzles me.

    On the other hand, I have had no problems with pulse on all the Kwheezy installations I've done. So I think you have been very unfortunate.

    I'm sticking to KDE, no worries there. However, once I get everything right (installer now needs GPT support, and I learn to unplug/delete my printer before mastering - bloody Linux is too damn plug'n'play these days), then I'm gonna make a Lite edition.

    Captha are clearly not hard enough. I have to delete spam on a daily basis.

  25. Rickster

    Rickster on 10/02/2013 7:10 p.m. #

    RE: "captcha's"
    Yes, I see a lot of spam here, Its too bad these captcha's don't keep the bandits out.
    mmm, I'm surprised that more Captcha's these days are completely "random" all the time, unfortunately some kinda script is grabbing it ? -I dunno :)
    ...maybe delete any blog post that has a "url / ftp / ..." link, although that may be kinda rude. ;)

    ... I will use your Forums from now on.

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